France on Sunday condemned Israel’s deportation of French-Palestinian lawyer Salah Hamouri, who is accused of terror offenses and had been detained without charge since March.
Israel has said Hamouri was still active in a terror group, years after he was released from jail in 2011 for a plot to kill a prominent rabbi. He has denied all the allegations against him.
“We condemn today the Israeli authorities’ decision, against the law, to expel Salah Hamouri to France,” the French foreign ministry said in a statement.
The French foreign ministry said Paris had been “fully mobilized, including at the highest level of the state, to ensure Salah Hamouri’s rights are respected, that he benefits from all possible assistance and that he can lead a normal life in Jerusalem, where he was born, resides and wishes to live.”
“France also took several steps to communicate to the Israeli authorities in the clearest way its opposition to this expulsion of a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem, an occupied territory under the Fourth Geneva Convention,” the statement read.
Israel captured East Jerusalem, home to the city’s most important religious sites, in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed the area in a move that is not internationally recognized. It considers the entire city to be its capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a hoped-for state.
French President Emmanuel Macron has previously raised concerns about Hamouri’s case with Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
Hamouri, who holds French citizenship, had been held since March in administrative detention –- an Israeli tool that allows authorities to hold suspects for months at a time without charge and without allowing them to see the evidence against them.
Hamouri, who has lived in Jerusalem his entire life, has been held on suspicion of participation in terror activities due to his alleged affiliation with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group, but has not been charged or convicted in the latest proceedings against him.
The Palestinian lawyer arrived on Sunday morning in Paris, where he was welcomed by his wife Elsa, politicians, representatives of rights groups and supporters at the French capital’s Charles de Gaulle airport.
On his arrival, his supporters unfurled a banner saying “Welcome Salah” and some carried Palestinian flags. Around a dozen police officers were also at the airport.
“It’s a happy day for a family reunited but for the Palestinian people, it’s a sad day,” said Amnesty International’s France chief, Jean-Claude Samouiller.
He described the expulsion as a “crime of apartheid.”
Hamouri works for the Palestinian human rights organization Addameer, which was deemed by Israel to be a terror organization, together with several other NGOs, in October 2021. Addameer — along with the UN, several European nations and a number of Israeli human rights groups – – have all strongly rejected the designation.
Previously, Hamouri spent seven years in prison after being convicted in a 2005 plot to kill Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a former chief rabbi and the spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party.
Hamouri was freed in a 2011 prisoner swap with the Gaza-based Hamas terrorist group for the release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
Israel said since then that Hamouri has used his Jerusalem residency to continue “his hostile, serious and significant activity.”
Israel says that Hamouri is a member of the PFLP, which is designated as a terror organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union, although there has been no evidence provided publicly for the allegations against the lawyer.
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked decided to strip Hamouri of his residency rights in October 2021.
Announcing his deportation on Sunday morning, Shaked praised it as a “tremendous achievement” coming at the end of her tenure as interior minister.
“This was a long and protracted process and it is a tremendous achievement that I was able to bring about his deportation just before the end of my duties, using the tools at my disposal to advance the fight against terrorism,” Shaked said in a statement. “I hope that the incoming government will continue along these lines and deport terrorists from Israel.”
Expected incoming interior minister Aryeh Deri, head of the Shas party, said the deportation “marked the end of a long but just legal process.”
Outgoing Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman slammed the support Hamouri received from France in a Twitter post.
“It is unthinkable that the terrorist Salah Hamouri who was convicted in court, released, became a recidivist and was deported, is received as a hero in France. And to add insult to injury, the French foreign ministry reprimands Israel,” Liberman said.
“This is not how terrorism is fought, but how terrorism and terrorists are encouraged, both in Israel and in France,” he added.
Israeli human rights group HaMoked decried the decision, saying that “deporting a Palestinian from their homeland for breach of allegiance to the State of Israel is a dangerous precedent and a gross violation of basic rights.”
In September 2019, Hamoked launched an appeal against the 2018 law enabling the state to revoke permanent residency status from East Jerusalem Palestinians on the basis of “breach of allegiance to the State of Israel.”
The decision to revoke Hamouri’s residency underscored the fragile status of Jerusalem’s Palestinians, who hold Israeli residency rights but are largely not citizens.
Residency allows them freedom of movement, the ability to work and access to Israeli social services, but they are not allowed to vote in national elections. Residency rights can be stripped if a Palestinian is found to live outside the city for an extended period or in certain security cases.
Palestinians can apply for citizenship. But few do, not wanting to be seen as accepting what they see as an occupation. Those who do apply face a lengthy and bureaucratic process.
Last year, Hamouri was among six human rights activists whose cellphones were found by independent security researchers to have been infected with spyware made by the Israeli company NSO Group.
It was not known who placed the spyware on the phones. Israel says there’s no connection between the terror designation of Addameer and the five other Palestinian rights groups and any alleged use of NSO spyware. Israel has provided little evidence publicly to support the terrorism designation, which Palestinian groups say is meant to muzzle them and dry up their sources of funding.
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.